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The incredible Nimrod Castle

Nimrod Castle is not any old boring castle. It is one of the largest and most impressive castles in the Middle East. Its long narrow structure fits snugly between the important Wadi Nakeb to its south and Wadi Govta to the north. The dongon occupies the top quarter of the fortress and was the first section to be built. The views from here are incredible. The topography of the castle and its walls and 21 towers made it almost impregnable.

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Why did the Muslims build a castle in the northern Golan the middle of nowhere?


Why did the Muslim Ayyubid dynasty build such an impressive fortress in this isolated part of the northern Golan?


The answer is that although Salah a-Din (Saladin), who commanded the Ayyubid army, defeated the Crusader army at Karnei Hittin in 1187 and then systematically destroyed all their fortresses, there was still a Crusader kingdom remaining along the Mediterranean coast. The Christians also began mobilizing for another Crusade to reconquer Jerusalem and reestablish the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This citadel was built in 1227 to prevent the Crusaders from attacking Damascus. The valley Wadi Nakeb, which is below the fortress, extends from the Upper Hula Valley and was an important highway between Sidon in Lebanon and Damascus in Syria. In other words, this castle was very strategically situated.


The fortress was completed within 3 years. In 1253, the Crusaders did attempt to conquer it, but were unsuccessful. Two decades later the castle was handed over by the Ayyubids to the Mongols who had invaded Syria and Palestine from Central Asia.


The progress of the Mongols was stopped by the Mamlukes, the next power in the Middle East, at the Battle of Ein Jalud, and the Mamluke commander Baybars appointed himself sultan. Between 1260 to 1277 his governor Bilik reconstructed this fortress, including its semicircular towers. When the Mamlukes were finally able to eject the Crusaders from the Holy Land at the end of the 13th century, this castle lost its importance and was abandoned.

Directions: Enter “Nimrod” into Waze and click on “Nimrod Fortress National Park”. There is a large parking lot just before the main gate of the fortress. A hut sells snacks and hot and cold drinks. There is no picnic area.

AdmissionThis is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. It is open in the summer from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Sunday to Thursday and on Saturday, and on Friday and holiday eves from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. In the winter it closes 1 hour earlier. Entrance to the park is up to 1 hour before closing time. There is an admission fee. Allow at least 2 hours for viewing this site. There is a brochure available in English. The park phone number is 04-694 9277. This is their website.

Difficulty: The fortress is on an incline and there is quite a lot of step-climbing. Exploring some of the towers may also involve steps.

Public transport: There is an infrequent bus from Kiryat Shemona to אנדרטת סיירת אגוז. From here it is a 1.9 Km/23-minute walk to the fortress.

The keep.jpeg



The fortress is large and a bit complicated. However, if you follow the green arrows and the brochure you should not get lost.


The fortress is entered from the Northwestern Tower and Gate (#1 in the brochure) adjacent to the Parking Lot. This tower was constructed by the Ayyubids, although expanded by the Mamlukes. They also added two further stories and made an opening in the ground floor for a cistern.


The green arrows will lead you from the tower into the courtyard where you can view Baybars’ Inscription, which dates from 1275 CE.

Baybar symbol.jpeg

Baybars was the commander of the Mameluke forces and self-appointed Sultan. His symbol was a lion sculpted in stone, as shown here.

Now head to the Southwestern Tower (#5) and climb to its roof. From here there is a wonderful view over Wadi Nakeb. There is also a recording, which can be heard in English, about the view and the significance of the places you are viewing.

Walk towards the keep at the far end of the fortress by following the green arrows. You will pass a reservoir, which was fed by rainwater. Also, a public fountain by its side fed from the reservoir.


The reservoir

Drinking fountain.jpeg

The fountain adjacent to the reservoir.

The dugon or keep was the first section of the fortress to be built by the Ayyubids and was free-standing. In other words, it could continue to be defended even though the rest of the fortress was overrun. 

Overlook from the dungeon.jpeg

There is a superb view of Mount Hermon, the Golan Heights and the Hula Valley from the dongon/keep.

On your return, turn right some distance after the Moat, but before the Beautiful Tower. This point is indicated by a sign. This path will take you towards the Northern Tower and will simplify your exit to the parking lot.


The Northern Tower (#13) was also built by Baybars. It overlooks Wadi Govta and from its top you can see Mount Hermon and Mount Dov. Descend into the tower. This is also the best way to exit the fortress. The tower is thought to have been used as a prison during the 15th century. There are square holes in the center of the room. Go through the secret passage which ends in an opening in the northern wall. This functioned as a secret exit from the fortress and in the past would have been hidden by a pile of rocks.

The secret exit from the Northern Tower. This will take you to the path to the Parking Lot.

The path along the western wall will lead you back to the parking lot.

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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